Innovations Golden Apple Grant Recipients
Final Reports April 2002
Learning Community for Math Enhancement through Student
Legrand, Social Science, Wolfson Campus
, Mathematics, Wolfson Campus
Mathematics, Wolfson Campus
joint venture between the math and social science departments
seeks to provide students with the academic, affective,
and technological support to pass their math courses, while
gaining a solid foundation for future graduation requirements. Tutors
will provide face-to-face group tutoring with some additional
online support. Students in the learning communities will
receive structured academic advisement as well as the opportunity
to attend four workshops on becoming better math learners.
This project was
created to help improve success and retention rates among
first-year in college students who place into college preparatory
mathematics courses. The project targeted highly “at-risk” students
by selecting those who were required to take MAT 0024 or
MAT 1033 and Student Life Skills, SLS 1535. In the Fall
2001-1 Term, the passing rates for MAT 0024 and MAT 1033
at the Wolfson Campus were 44.4% and 49.7% respectively.
The project goals
and outcomes were to:
• Form two learning communities organized into two SLS/MAT cohorts at the
inception of the Fall 2002-1 Term
• Recruit 30 to 40 students for the learning communities by the 100% refund
deadline for the Fall 2002-1 Term
• Ensure a 10% increase in the passing rate of the cohort students taking
MAT 0024 at the end of the Fall 2002-1 Term, as compared to the campus passing
rate of the Fall 2001-1 Term
• Ensure a 10% increase in the passing rate of the cohort students taking
MAT 1033 at the end of the Fall 2002-1 Term, as compared to the campus passing
rate of the Fall 2001-1 Term
• Ascertain a 10 % increase in the students’ scores from a pre-test
(given at the beginning of the semester) and a post-test (given at the end of
the semester) on The Math Study Skills Inventory in the SLS 1535 classes.
The project’s goals and outcomes were accomplished mostly
due to a carefully planned instruction model that:
• Provided the students with a sense of belonging and enabled them to combat
feelings of isolation usually experienced by college freshmen.
• Provided the students with a well-structured environment and strong academic
• Emphasized the importance of developing good math study skills.
• Addressed the negative attitudes often exhibited by college preparatory
students toward mathematics.
• Promoted independent as well as group learning.
• Promoted active learning vs. passive learning.
• Promoted the use of on-line software for additional support and communication.
• Performed early intervention to prevent students from failing or withdrawing
• Used a holistic approach in teaching these students, realizing that mathematics
is only one of many components in their academic experience.
To successfully form the two learning communities, the three
professors worked diligently during the 2002 Summer B session
and established a close collaboration with the Student Services
personnel. They created advertising posters that were placed
in the Testing Department; they created informational flyers
that were distributed to the target population by the staff from
the Testing Department; letters about the project were handed
to the academic advisors, who played a major role in motivating
the students to participate in the project.
The three professors and the academic advisors closely monitored
the registration process to ensure that students were correctly
enrolled in the designated classes. Students enrolled in the
wrong sections were quickly informed, and appropriate action
taken. Before the end of the 100% refund period, 39 students
were recruited; 18 were enrolled in the MAT 0024/SLS 1535 cohort
and 21 were enrolled in the MAT 1033/SLS 1535 cohort.
The same group of students was registered in the SLS and Math
classes. All students were required to attend study and/or tutoring
sessions and turn in their homework. Students from MAT 0024 were
required to attend four one-hour math anxiety/math study skills
BBML (Becoming a Better Math Learner) workshops during the semester.
Students from MAT 1033 were strongly encouraged to attend them.
Three tutors were carefully selected and hired to work with the
students. They were mentored, closely monitored and they reported
regularly on individual students’ progress to the three
The SLS component of these two learning communities addressed
the importance of developing good math study skills through carefully
planned lessons and group activities. The SLS component and participation
in the BBML workshops helped the students improve their overall
attitude towards math.
Students studied in groups, but at the same time were made aware
of the fact that their success in these classes was ultimately
their responsibility. Students made class presentations, did
chalkboard exercises while freely correcting one another, and
participated in collaborative learning activities.
The textbook’s “MyMathLab” software was made
available and used by the students to get help on-line while
trying homework exercises. The same software was used in the
SLS classes to provide on-line discussions related to mathematics.
Private one-on-one advisement sessions between the students and
the SLS instructor, as well as frequent meetings among the three
professors allowed proactive and early interventions. The SLS
instructor also conducted frequent private sessions with the
students to discuss their future academic plans and to advise
The course competencies for MAT 1033 and MAT 0024 remained the
same respectively. However, the syllabi were modified to include
assessment of group activities and assignments that would help
improve the students’ math study skills. The competencies
for SLS 1535 were adjusted to the needs of the learning communities
and the syllabus was modified accordingly.
The project was assessed
based on the successful accomplishment
of its goals and outcomes.
This project successfully
attained and surpassed its expected goals and outcomes
in many areas such as: passing and retention rates, students’ class
attendance, students’ time management, students’ self-discipline
and individual responsibility.
• Before the end of the 100% refund period, 39 students were
registered in these two learning communities
• The passing rate for MAT 0024 in this learning community was 72%, compared
to a passing rate of 44.4% for all students taking MAT 0024 in the Fall 2001-1
Term at the Wolfson campus. This is 27.6 percentage points higher or
the equivalent of a 62% increase in the passing rate.
• The passing rate for MAT 1033 in this learning community was 76%, compared
to a passing rate of 49.7% for all students taking MAT 1033 in the Fall 2001-1
Term at the Wolfson campus. This is 26.3 pecentage points higher or the
equivalent of a 53% increase in the percentage rate.
• The passing rate for both SLS courses in these learning communities was
• In the MAT 0024/SLS 1535 cohort, there was a 37% increase in
the post-test scores of the Math Study Skills Inventory as compared to the pre-test
scores given at the beginning of the semester. In the MAT 1033/SLS 1535 cohort,
there was a 13% increase.
• All 18 students originally registered in both MAT 0024 and SLS 1535 courses
remained in the learning community. Not one student dropped.
• 16 of these 18 students are presently enrolled at mdc in the spring
semester 2002-2 with 15 of them taking a math course. This is an 89%
retention rate. (Note: In private advisement sessions with the SLS instructor,
the two students who are not enrolled at mdc did discuss extenuating circumstances
in their life that would lead to departure from the college. One student had
to transfer to another geographic area; the other had to deal with a family/work
• 3 of these 15 students are repeating MAT 0024; the other 13 are taking
the following math course, MAT 1033
• All 21 students who originally registered in both MAT 1033 and SLS 1535
courses remained in the learning community. Not one student dropped.
• All 21 students are currently enrolled in the Spring 2002-2 Term with
18 of them taking a math course. This is a 100% retention rate.
• 2 of these 18 students are repeating MAT 1033 and 16 of them are taking
the following math course, MAC 1105
• Student attendance was nearly perfect for all four courses throughout
the entire semester.
• Some students formed lasting bonds; four former MAT 0024 students chose
to register in the same class and are presently taking MAT 1033 with Professor
• BBML workshops’ feedback as well as SLS assignments showed that
students’ attitude toward math as well as their ways of studying the subject
• Students’ levels of motivation and confidence in their mathematical
abilities increased significantly.
• Qualities typically associated with high achievers, such as, good time
management and good study habits, became more visible among the students as the
• Students learned much about their own individual learning styles regarding
mathematics, enabling them to approach mathematics in a more assertive and successful
||• Partial results
of this project have already been shared at the following
• The special learning community luncheon celebrated in November 2002
• Wolfson Campus Math Department meetings
• Wolfson Campus Student Life Skills department meetings
• Workshop by well-known learning community expert Vincent Tinto at Wolfson
campus in January 2003
• Math faculty retreat at Kendall campus on February 6th, 2003.
• General Comments and Recommendations:
• These learning communities successfully combined math and student life
skills courses. The three faculty members involved in this project experienced
first hand the tremendous effectiveness of a learning community instruction model
such as the one used in this project.
• The nature of SLS 1535 makes it an excellent choice as the course to
be combined with math in a learning community aiming at success in math. In addition,
the SLS instructor’s familiarity with the Odyssey system, advisement skills,
as well as expertise in the affective domain effectively enhance the learning
• For the successful creation and effective survival of a learning community
project such as this one, it is essential that close collaboration between faculty,
chairpersons, and student services personnel be established.
• Faculty members involved in the project must maintain close contact throughout
the duration of the project, have a strong ability to work in teams, communicate
effectively, and have the ability to innovate and develop teaching strategies
that correspond to the learning needs of the participants.
• Faculty members must find ways to make sure students are using all the
resources that the learning community model offers. This requires striking a
delicate balance between promoting independent learning and making sure that
students comply with all requirements of the program.
• This group of professors strongly recommends that the college explore
ways of funding similar projects in the future. In the meantime, the following
suggestions may be contemplated for future college freshmen who place into college
• Require students having to take SLS classes and a college preparatory
math class to take them during the first semester at the college
• Register the same group of students in the SLS class and the college
prep math class
• Even if a learning community instruction model were not implemented and
these courses were taught in the traditional way, these two factors alone may
contribute highly to student retention, student success, and student satisfaction.
• Faculty members should be given release time to adequately carry out
a project like this one since it involves a great amount of time and effort.
• The following events will provide more opportunities to share and disseminate
all of the previously mentioned findings as well as the general comments and
• Faculty Conference Day, March 6th, 2003
• Spring 2003 memorandum for SLS instructors